Sunday 16 February 2020

Match preview: Chelsea v Man Utd

It seems like a lifetime ago that Manchester United last played a football match. In fact it will be a little over two weeks by the time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side take to the field after the Premier League's first ever winter break.

Solskjaer has beaten Frank Lampard three times in their previous three managerial meetings, boasting a 100% record against his counterpart in the battle of two relative rookies. But Lampard can claim to be happier with his side's season so far, with the Blues currently occupying fourth place, only two points ahead of United.... surprise package Sheffield United!

We sit six points further back in eighth position and this Monday night fixture surely looks a must win to keep alive any lingering hopes of reeling in the chasing pack. Manchester City's potential Champions League ban could mean that the fifth placed team qualifies for the Champions League in their absence, sprinkling added intrigue to an already congested battle.

United beat Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day of the campaign and also prevailed on our last trip to Stamford Bridge - Marcus Rashford's wonder goal proving the difference in a 2-1 Carabao Cup victory in October. The Reds have a baffling ability to turn it on against the top teams yet frequently fall short against the league's lesser lights, struggling against the likes of West Ham, Bournemouth, Watford and Burnley.

New loan signing Odion Ighalo is set to travel with the squad and will be involved, with the former Watford striker set to make his debut, probably off the bench. He hasn't played much football or even trained with the team since arriving from Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day, so Solskjaer probably won't throw him straight in.
Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe have been out since December but both travelled to the Reds winter training camp. This match seems likely to come too soon for the pair, however.
Marcus Rashford (back) and Paul Pogba (ankle) also remain sidelined, while Tim Fosu - Mensah - who is yet to play this campaign - has suffered a minor setback but is not far away from full fitness.

Bruno Fernandes will make his first appearance away from home following an impressive debut against Wolves last time out.
Lampard has a fully fit squad to pick from with Ruben Loftus - Cheek the Blues only injury absentee.

Solskjaer said: "Of course, a win gives us a three point gap and that's what we've got to aim for.
"We've played them twice already this season and done well but Chelsea are a good team. They are at home so it's more difficult for us, but we're going there to try and win the game.
"We've got to, to give us more belief and more hope and confidence that we can kick on, because we need to kick on.
"We know it will be difficult but the boys have trained well, we've had a rest so we're ready to go."

On the benefits of the winter break, Ole added: "I think it's a big advantage for everyone in the squad, individually, the team, but also the other teams and the league. I think the league will see a benefit from it, the quality of the football will improve, because December and January are relentless.
"It's a good move by the authorities, every other major league in other countries have some form of break, so it's just up to the boys to show that freshness we've shown this week."

United's visit to Stamford Bridge is the MNF game on Sky Sports and kicks off at 8pm

Form guide: Chelsea W W L D W D United W L L W W D
Match odds: Chelsea 5/6 Draw 11/4 United 7/2
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)

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